Senator Jim Jeffords died in August. He represented Vermont vigorously and faithfully. he was a Republican in the tradition of Vermont Senators Aiken, Flanders and Stafford, members of the moderate and modern wing of the Republican Party.
They were resolutely independent, who listened to the people and gave them their judgment. Those earlier Senators fought for a Republican party that was part of this world, knowing that a political opponent wasn’t an enemy, stood up to indecency whether Joe McCarthy or racism and believed in governing and government responsibility.
Jeffords met the standards of independence and courage they set. Jeffords knew what he was about and acted accordingly.
Senator Jeffords made his contributions in education, especially the special needs of children and in protecting the environment. In the House he played an active role in fighting arming military dictators in El Salvador.
Jeffords cast many courageous votes: he was the only House Republican to vote against the irresponsible 1981 Reagan Tax cut; he supported the Brady hand gun bill though Vermont is politically hostile to gun control; and he battled the budget strippers extra hard to fund disability needs fully. He was one of 23 Senators to vote against not going to war in Iraq, a vote that he always cherished.
Of course Senator Jeffords is best known for facing the reality of a changed Republican Party. He knew that it no longer welcomed his thinking on substantive matters and with it
came a dominant party mentality of not accepting difference or even being civil about it. So Jeffords stepped up and became an Independent who caucused with the Democrats.
Though I was no intimate of Senator Jeffords, I will miss that quality of independent judgment, braced with kindness, when he faced the critical issues of the day. Senator Jeffords’s sense of public service should be emulated.
August 30, 2014